Minutes of the Regular Meeting of the Gurnee Plan Commission - August 17, 2011

 Village of Gurnee
Plan Commission Minutes
August 17, 2011

 

 The meeting was called to order at 7:32 P.M.

 

Plan Commission Members Present:       Chairman James Sula, David Nordentoft, Richard McFarlane,

Gwen Broughton, Sharon Salmons

 

Plan Commission Members Absent:        Patrick Drennan

Other Officials Present:                          Bryan Winter, Village Attorney; David Ziegler, Director of Community Development; Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager; Molly Booth, Associate Planner;

 

1.  Approval of Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for August 3, 2011.

Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to approve the Plan Commission Meeting Minutes for

August 3, 2011.

 

Roll Call

Ayes:                Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons

Nays:                None

Abstain:            None

Motion Carried:  5-0-0

 

2.  Minor Sign Exception: Warren Township

Ms. Booth stated the petitioner, Warren Township, recently purchased the office building located at 100 Greenleaf Street to serve as their youth and family services center.  She stated they are proposing to re-use the existing ground sign but are unable to meet the required 8-inch letter height due to the constraints posed by the dimensions of the existing sign and the petitioner’s name & name of their services offered at facility.  She stated the maximum letter height the petitioner can achieve is 6.5-inches and therefore, they are requesting a Minor Exception to the Sign Ordinance to allow lettering to be less than the required 8-inch height. 

 

Chairman Sula asked for any questions from the members of the Commission.

 

Mr. Ryan Johnson, representing Warren Township, stated a revised sign detail has been submitted to request a letter height of 6 ½ inches rather than the previously proposed letter height of 7 inches.

 

Chairman Sula stated Ms. Booth referred to the 6 ½ inches instead of the 7 inches.

 

The petitioner stated the 6 ½ inches was recommended by the sign company as it was easier to read.

 

Chairman Sula asked what makes the sign easier to read.

 

Mr. Johnson responded there would be less space between the words and this was recommended by the sign company. He stated if they had to go with the 7 inches they would go with that.

 

Mr. McFarlane asked if a sign is needed for each of the organizations.

 

Chairman Sula stated there is only (1) one organization.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated he is trying to understand if Youth & Family Services and Special Recreation is all the same organization.

 

Chairman Sula stated it is Warren Township’s Youth & Family Services.

 

Mr. Johnson stated that is correct. He stated the Youth & Family Services is a division of Warren Township. He noted the Warren Special Recreation Association is actually a larger association with other members and they are very separate entities.

 

Chairman Sula asked who the occupant actually is.

 

Mr. Johnson stated Warren Township owns the building and the occupants that will move into the building after the renovations are completed will be Youth & Family Services.

 

Chairman Sula asked if Youth & Family Services is part of the Warren Township umbrella.

 

Mr. Johnson responded that is correct.

 

Chairman Sula stated then if Warren Township is not the landlord, then they are actually an occupant.

 

Mr. Johnson responded correct. He stated there are several different divisions and noted there is future anticipation for additional administrative functions and as well as expanding the food pantry. He stated this is where the Warren Township portion of the sign is important and Youth & Family Services is another component. He stated Warren Special Recreation is another agency and will be comprised mainly in the lower level of the building.

 

Chairman Sula asked if Youth & Family Services is a department within Warren Township.

 

Mr. Johnson responded it is.

 

Chairman Sula stated then it is Warren Township Youth & Family Services.

 

Mr. Johnson responded correct.

 

Chairman Sula stated then there is a separate tenant that is Warren Township Special Recreation Association.

 

Mr. Johnson responded correct.

 

Chairman Sula stated this is kind of awkward but understands what is being done, as well being economical by using the three panels of the sign. He stated in all candors it is confusing.

 

Mr. Johnson stated it is most recognizable and goes with the existing signage they have all throughout their campus.

 

Chairman Sula expressed concern over the quality and lack of detail of the sign drawings submitted with the petition. 

 

Mr. Johnson apologized stating he was unaware that this happened.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated he wanted to understand if they were separate organizations to see if the sign could just say Warren Township reducing the amount of verbiage on the sign. He stated if they are separate organizations the petitioner has a problem.

 

Mr. Johnson stated it really is (2) two but the Warren Township is significant of the Administrative function and Youth & Family Services with Warren Special Recreation.

 

Chairman Sula asked if there is a standalone operation called Youth & Family Services.

 

Mr. Johnson responded yes.

 

Chairman Sula asked if Youth & Family Services is the legal charter name and asked if the signs say Warren Township Family Services or just Youth & Family Services.

 

Mr. Johnson responded this is the way the signage currently is, located in the building that they are in.

 

Chairman Sula stated the signs then, do not reference Warren Township.

 

Mr. Johnson responded correct, and that the signs reflect Youth & Family Services.

 

Mr. McFarlane asked if it is on the campus of Warren Township.

 

Mr. Johnson responded correct.

 

Chairman Sula asked what exactly happens at this facility.

 

Mr. Johnson responded at this facility Youth & Family Services’ largest function is counseling services for youths and families. He stated they work closely with schools and other organizations providing various programs including credit counseling as well as having therapists on staff.

 

Chairman Sula asked what Warren Special Recreation Association does.

 

Mr. Johnson responded the Warren Special Recreation Association is part of the Park District and Warren Township providing services to children and adults with special needs.  He stated this would be expanding their program from an outdated 1850’s farmhouse. He noted it will be a larger open area with an elevator having access for all special needs.

 

Chairman Sula stated then it is a recreation center for special needs as opposed to the offices for the Association.

 

Mr. Johnson responded their offices will be located on-site with a few rooms dedicated to the programs that are chosen.

 

Chairman Sula stated he wants to understand where the “100” will be going.

 

Mr. Johnson responded the “100” will be going on the side of the sign facing the street, set with 10” letters, with a number on each part of the sign.

 

Chairman Sula asked for any other questions from members of the Commission.

 

Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, to approve the Minor Exception request for a sign with 6 ½-inch tall letters as shown on the sign drawing received by the Commission on August 17, 2011.

 

Roll Call

Ayes:                Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons

Nays:                None

Abstain:            None

Motion Carried:  5-0-0

 

3.  Minor Sign Exception:  Carriage House Apartments

Ms. Booth stated the petitioner, Carriage House Apartments located at 4379 W. McClure Avenue, is an existing multi-building apartment development located south of Grand Ave and both north and south of McClure Avenue and Finch Court.  She stated they are proposing to install a new ground sign for their apartment complex. She stated the proposed sign complies with the Sign Ordinance in every way, except for the proposed structure’s 0-ft. setback to their north property line, which runs along Grand Avenue.  She stated due to the existing Willow trees, drop in elevation, and amount of right-of-way space between the property line and Grand Avenue, the petitioner is requesting a Minor Exception to the Sign Ordinance to allow a 0-ft. setback for the proposed ground sign.

 

Chairman Sula stated for the record that his understanding is this would be replacing a lower quality sign with basically the same placement to the road, but more west than where the previous sign was; with the same setbacks as the old sign.

 

Chairman Sula asked for questions from the Commission.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated he went over to the site and noticed a couple of posts where the old sign once stood. He stated his recollection was the old sign was parallel to the road and asked if this was correct.

 

Mr. Andy Korn from Kornerstone Sign & Graphics, representative of the petitioner, responded that is correct.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated that it was a wooden sign and the petitioner is changing the form of the sign. He also asked who owns the willow trees.

 

Mr. Korn responded that is within the property line and is owned by the apartment complex owner.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated his point was instead of encroaching onto the right of way as being suggested, that it is not such a big deal to just trim the trees.

 

Chairman Sula stated they are not encroaching on the right of way and that they are asking for the sign to be right on the property line as being opposed to a setback that is required by the Ordinance.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated the petitioner could comply with the setback by just trimming the trees which would be about a (4) four foot change.

 

Chairman Sula stated it is much more than that and asked what the required setback was.

 

Ms. Velkover responded (12) twelve feet.

 

Chairman Sula stated it is (12) twelve feet and the petitioner is asking for (0) zero. He stated this is replacing a previous condition.

 

Mr. McFarlane asked for a visual of the new sign.

 

Mr. Korn responded it is in the packet provided to the Commission.

 

Ms. Salmons asked how far the sign would be from the sidewalk.

 

Mr. Korn responded there is a culvert there.

 

Chairman Sula stated it is actually the street, sidewalk and ditch.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated it is 6-8 feet.

 

Chairman Sula asked for any other questions or comments from the Commission.

 

Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Ms. Broughton, to approve the Minor Exception for the request as presented.

 

Roll Call

Ayes:                Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons

Nays:                None

Abstain:            None

Motion Carried:  5-0-0

 

4.  Public Hearing: Rezoning for 3706 Florida Ave

Ms. Booth stated the petitioner, Gurnee School District 56, is proposing to rezone the existing 0.79 acre residential lot at 3706 Florida Avenue from R-2 Single Family Residence District to P, Public Land District.  She stated the rezoning petition is requested to allow the School District to consolidate the subject lot and the adjacent 8.6 acre Spaulding School site to form one, contiguous lot, and to construct a new administrative office building in place of the existing house. 

 

Chairman Sula stated this is a Public Hearing, and asked for anyone from the petitioner or members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.

 

Chairman Sula opened the floor to the petitioner.

 

Dr. John Hutton, Superintendent of Gurnee School District 56, introduced himself and noted he lives at 3046 Concord Lane in Wadsworth. He stated the address of their office is 900 N. Kilbourne Road in Gurnee. 

 

Dr. Hutton stated a referendum was passed on November 2, 2010 to move out of the structure on 900 N. Kilbourne Road. He stated this has been a flood prone school for a number of years and has created a number of flooding issues for the Village of Gurnee. He stated their district office as well as the Gurnee grade school are located at this site and noted they appreciate the support they have received from Administration.  He stated several years ago they bought the property at 3706 Florida with the idea that if they ever moved out of the structure they would look into making it a district office. He stated they would like the property at 3706 to be re-zoned to the same zoning they have for Spaulding allowing them to make the properties one campus.  He stated they take pride in having Gurnee in their name and want to do everything they can to enhance the community as well as to keep within the residential look of the area. He stated the building they have proposed for this property is a brick 6,500 square foot building which is 1/3 less space than they currently occupy. He stated the building has a residential look which will conform well within the residential area. He stated it will be Spaulding School as well as their office going into this area. He noted it will be attractive and enhance the community.

He mentioned they looked at other options such as purchasing a building but the costs were prohibitive. He stated as they had already purchased and owned this lot, this is what made the most sense.

 

Mr. Hutton stated they will conform to all the Village Ordinances regarding this transition. He stated they intend to be good neighbors and will work with the Village to ensure approval with whatever they do.

 

Chairman Sula asked for any questions from members of the general public.  Chairman Sula stated as there were none he would close the floor to the public.

 

Chairman Sula asked for questions or comments from members of the Commission.

 

Chairman Sula noted for the record that one of the issues before the Commission is that this does take some property off of the tax rolls but in looking over the prior actions over the past 5-6 years the Commission has sub-divided lots where property was added to this particular area of town. He stated he believes this is a reasonable request in terms of what it does to the overall tax base.

 

Mr. Nordentoft stated there have been numerous opportunities in the past to sub-divide in that area of town adding to the tax rolls. He stated he believes the request for the rezoning is very reasonable and meets the standards for rezoning requests. He stated he is appreciative of the fact that the district included this additional information so the Commission had some visual and point of reference having the opportunity to get a feel for what the long term plan is for the property rather than just to rezone a parcel and hope that something just turns out well.  He stated the Commission is appreciative they were given the opportunity to review this.

 

Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Ms. Broughton, to forward a favorable recommendation to the Village Board to rezone the subject parcel, located at 3706 Florida Ave, from R-2, Single Family Residence District to P, Public Land District.

 

Roll Call

Ayes:                Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons

Nays:                None

Abstain:            None

Motion Carried:  5-0-0

 

5.  Public Hearing: Special Use Permit for Warren Township High School

Ms. Booth stated the petitioner, Warren Township High School, located at 500 N. O’Plaine Road, is requesting a Special Use permit to allow the installation of an LED electronic message board display on a new double-sided, ground sign that will be constructed in an existing parking island at the school’s south entrance.  She stated the proposed LED cabinet is approximately 11.08 sq. ft., and will be located on the lower half of the box sign, presenting messages to the public on school events.  She stated the Special Use request is limited to the review & recommendation of the proposed LED display as the ground sign meets all requirements of the Sign Ordinance.

 

Chairman Sula stated this is a Public Hearing, and asked for anyone from the petitioner or members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.

 

Mr. Kevin Lieb, Facilities Manager for Warren Township High School introduced himself. He stated he wanted to preface this tonight as they have previously been through this process with their original sign. He noted they have relocated the sign per the Commission’s request. He stated they actually have a permit for a stand-alone sign and the proposed petition is for installation of the LED.

 

Chairman Sula asked why the petitioner feels that is necessary to have an LED sign that is changeable.

 

Mr. Lieb responded they are looking for another means of communication within the community. He stated they do put signs up on the side of the building and the LED sign would provide a safer view of activities that are happening in the community. He stated the sign would not only display school events that are happening, but they could display community functions as well, i.e. Gurnee Days.

 

Chairman Sula responded that cannot actually be done because off-site advertising is not permitted by the Sign Ordinance. He stated signage is actually supposed to be germane to the facility that the sign is located upon. He stated signage on the light poles is in the public right of way and the Village has precedence over those rights of ways. He stated off-site advertising is not permitted by the Sign Ordinance.

 

Chairman Sula asked for any questions or comments from the members of the Commission.

 

Mr. McFarlane stated he has a difficult time seeing a need for any electronic sign noting there are many ways to communicate to the student body. He stated this isn’t a situation where someone driving by would see the sign and actually take some action.

 

Chairman Sula stated he is looking for a compelling need for the sign.

Ms. Salmons asked if this sign would change lettering, i.e. bank signs referencing the time of day, etc. as she finds those types of signs distracting. She asked the petitioner for the idea of this sign, if it is approved.

 

Mr. Lieb responded the sign will be a single color of amber with (2) two lines, showing if possible, two separate activities with a certain amount of timed sequence in between. He noted time sequences can range from 2 seconds to 99 minutes. He stated this type of sign is very controllable with (10) ten different stages of brightness as well as automatic diming capabilities for daytime and nighttime hours. He stated the sign can also be turned off as requested. He stated there would not be any scrolling with this sign.

 

Chairman Sula stated if this sign were to be allowed, the change frequencies of the sign would be something that would need to be spelled out in the recommendation.

 

Mr. Lieb stated for example, every time the students have a car wash a placquered is put out that states a carwash. He stated this sign would take the place of something such as the car wash placquered. He stated when they have theatre there are signs put out right in front of the auditorium. He stated those signs would be parallel to the school and perpendicular to the road which is actually more difficult to read than having the theatre information put onto a sign such as the one they are requesting this evening.

 

Mr. Nordentoft stated this topic has been grappled with many times in the past. He stated he believes it has always comes back to being essential; the essential nature of the message and ultimately to safety as well as the distractions that he believes are created by changing and moving signs. He stated the Commission has held to their ground on this issue before.

 

Chairman Sula asked Staff if this would be the first LED electronic changeable sign in the Village of Gurnee.

 

Ms. Velkover responded it would be the first one in the recent past. She stated the school and Gurnee Mills off of their east entrance at Grand Avenue used to have these types of signs. She stated there are currently two of these types of signs located off of the tollway; one for Gurnee Mills and one for Great America. She noted there might have been this type of a sign also at the bank located at Hutchins and Grand.  She stated the signs at Great America and Gurnee Mills are the only two remaining signs of this type within the Village of Gurnee.

 

Chairman Sula stated he agrees with Mr. Nordentoft’s comment.

 

Mr. Nordentoft stated the Commission has struggled with this issue in the past and his larger concern is the fact that the sign would be in front of the school noting the amount of traffic that comes in and out of the school and down O’Plaine Road. He stated he is concerned about the distraction of someone trying to read the sign and catch the changing signage versus paying attention to who is pulling in or pulling out of the school parking lot out onto the road. He stated it is a point of conflict and with adding flashing, moving, changing things causes distraction, even when controlled. He stated it would be something else to take someone’s eye off of the road.

 

Chairman Sula stated there are residences in the area as well.            

 

Chairman Sula asked for any questions from members of the general public.

 

Dr. Jeff Brierton, Principal at the O’Plaine Campus, stated whatever decision the Commission makes would be respected. He stated they want to remain good neighbors to the surrounding residences. He stated their efforts are to enhance communication with the parents. He stated they have new methods of contacting parents such as automated phone calls but they are trying to minimize their intrusion into homes as well. He stated mass mailings are basically not done any more as a cost reduction and matters of the environment. He stated their means of communication to the parents are through the kids which isn’t the most efficient and through the automated calls. He stated on many nights the school is very busy as a community center as there are various events held at the facility. He stated their effort is only to make sure that the parents and the community is aware of events that are taking place at the school. He stated they do make the commitment to be respectful to their neighbors and they would live by whatever restrictions the Commission may put into place. He stated part of the reason the old sign was removed is because it was unsightly and frankly, unsafe. He stated they want to be a good neighbor and if the Commission sees to allow this sign it would be managed appropriately.

 

Chairman Sula stated for the record that Dr. Brierton’s comments would be considered part of the petitioner’s comments because he is part of the organization.

 

Chairman Sula stated for the record, there was no one present from the Public; therefore, he is closing the floor to the Public.

 

Chairman Sula asked for any other questions or comments from the members of the Commission.

 

Chairman Sula stated he is struggling with the compelling reason aspect of it.

 

Mr. Nordentoft stated he is as well. He stated he commends them on their website and the phone calls but is having difficulty with getting over the hump as far as the sign. He did note the sign is good looking.

 

Mr. McFarlane forwarded an unfavorable recommendation, seconded by Ms. Salmons, for a Special Use Permit for an LED electronic message board display at the Warren Township High School located at 500 N. O’Plaine Road.

 

Roll Call

Ayes:                Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons

Nays:                None

Abstain:            None

Motion Carried:  5-0-0

 

Chairman Sula asked for motion to adjourn.

 

Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, to adjourn.

 

The Meeting was adjourned at 8:08P.M.

 

 

Respectfully Submitted:

Joanne Havenhill
Plan Commission Secretary

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